Dutch veteran Bert van Marwijk’s UAE reign began in earnest on Saturday when his first squad departed to Austria for a pivotal nine-day training camp ahead of World Cup 2022 qualifiers kicking off in September.
A much-changed 27-man roster was announced at the end of May by the 67-year-old, whose extensive coaching resume includes assuring in 2017 that Saudi Arabia’s 12-year absence from the global tournament was at an end and guiding his native Netherlands to defeat in the 2010 showpiece. Celebrated 2016 AFC Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman was absent from the group that took off from Dubai Airport.
The playmaker, however, has been in Lienz, Austria with Saudi Professional League giants Al Hilal and was reported last week to have received the medical all-clear in Barcelona, Spain from renowned orthopaedic surgeon Dr Ramon Cugat after October’s serious knee injury. That blow ruled him out of January’s Asian Cup on home soil.
Uncapped players in the original announcement included Al Ain’s summer buy Mohammed Ali Shaker, versatile Al Jazira youngster Mohammed Al Attas and prodigious Al Wasl forward Ali Saleh. The Whites – whose only World Cup showing came in 1990 – will also congregate from August 24-September 10, a period that includes their opening qualifiers on September 5 and 10.
Opponents for the second round in the elongated AFC process will be revealed in Wednesday’s group-stage draw.
Van Marwijk has been denied the presence of his Al Wahda contingent because they are preparing in the Netherlands for next month’s 2019 AFC Champions League round-of-16 double-header against SPL champions Al Nassr.
A concurrent training camp for the UAE Under-23s is being held in close proximity in Salzburg. The starlets are getting set for January’s AFC U-23 Championship in Thailand, the final round of qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
UAE TRAINING SQUAD
Khalid Essa, Bandar Al Ahbabi, Mohammed Ali Shaker, Ahmed Barman, Ryan Yaslam, (Al Ain); Hassan Al Muharrami, Fahad Al Dhahani (Bani Yas); Omar Abdulrahman (Al Hilal); Ali Khaseif, Khalifa Al Hammadi, Mohammed Al Attas, Salem Rashed, Khalfan Mubarak, Zayed Al Ameri, Ali Mabkhout (Al Jazira); Habib Fardan, Tariq Ahmed, Mohamed Al Akbari (Al Nasr); Walid Abbas, Majed Hassan, Ismail Al Hammadi, Ahmed Khalil (Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club); Adel Al Hosani, Majed Suroor, Ali Hassan Saleh (Sharjah); Ali Saleh, Ali Salmeen (Al Wasl)
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